The files were created by the Cohen Commission between 1946 and 1954 and relate to claims for remuneration from members of the public who claimed to have designed, created or usefully adapted inventions that served a valuable purpose to Great Britain's war effort during the Second World War (1939-1945). Some of these inventions were extremely famous; e.g. the time pencils, tank flails and 'Mulberry' floating harbours to name a few. Many claims for remunerative awards for inventions were actually settled by the relevant government ministries without reference to the Commission. Also, many that were referred to the Commission were subsequently withdrawn by the claimants before a hearing could be arranged. Such withdrawals are noted in the indexes and registers used by the Commission staff.
Apart from the Indexes and Registers, it appears that five separate filing systems were employed by the Cohen Commission. The records comprise the following categories.
- Indexes and registers originally used by the Commission (T 166/100 to 104). These comprise card indexes and registers of claimants for inventions.
- Transcripts of the Commission proceedings. (1st file system). These are marked with a 'G' file prefix followed by a number and comprise green coloured files
- Claim files. (2nd file system). These are marked with a 'C' file prefix followed by a number and comprise orange coloured files. The C reference seems to have been pre-eminent for locating other related reference material among the remaining 4 filing systems within these records; i.e. it is prominent in the indexes and registers used to locate other related G, IC file prefixes, S prefix plans and File Numbers (on correspondence files). These claim files include the particulars of the invention, design, drawing or process in question and the remuneration requested. Diagrams of inventions are often included. They also contain government department answers on the usefulness of the inventions and whether the claims have any merit in their opinion as well as the accuracy of the claims.
- Correspondence files. (3rd file system). These contain the correspondence relating to the claim (usually between solicitors and the Treasury and / or the government departments which made use of the invention). A red 'File Number' is marked on each correspondence file alongside the C prefix claim file reference which is usually also added to link these two separate records. These records are contained in beige / buff coloured files.
- Investigative Committee files. (4th file system). These records were created only under 'Head 3 of Warrant' criteria used under the Royal Warrant terms of reference for the Commission (see Administrative history). Investigative Committee documents are marked with an 'IC' file prefix followed by a number and applied to a large proportion of the claims made to the Commission. This Committee had to investigate those claims which were not based on any monopoly or statutory right. The Investigative Committee considered claims where an existing invention had been inventively adapted to fulfil a specific purpose which subsequently proved to be of great value to the British war effort. If the Investigative Committee was satisfied that there was merit in the claim then it would be referred to the full Commission where deliberation would be made on whether remuneration was appropriate and, if so, to determine how much. Investigation Committee. The significance of the IC reference diminished once a claim has progressed beyond the reach of this Committee.
- Plans and design diagrams. (5th file system). The Claim files invariably contain plans and designs of inventions which were marked with an S prefix.
Many of the C prefix claim files will be annotated with one of the following scripts: 'Head 1','Head 2', 'Head 3' or 'Head 4'. These refer to specific types of cases heard under the terms of reference specified under the Cohen Commission's Royal Warrant. These terms of reference are explained in the 'Administrative history' .
Other addenda on the files can include 'S.P.' which refers to 'Shortened Procedure' used when a case was able to be fast-tracked through a simplified procedure. Its initial use was referenced in the Second Report of the Commission (Cmd. 7832, November 1949, Para. 5 to 9) where a simplified form of procedure was sanctioned where much of the evidence on the validity of the claim had already been established by the relevant government department, ready to be submitted to the Commission's Secretariat for further comment or new points to be raised by the claimant. Patent numbers can also appear on the file coves where the invention was registered with the Patent Office. These are often present when a claim was being heard by the Commission under Head 3.